The recent surge in monkey menace in the city has made the UT Forest and Wildlife Department to sit up and take notice.
At present, the city has about 500 monkeys, mostly concentrated in the northern sectors and the green belts. There is fear that in coming years, their numbers will increase.
Chief Wildlife Warden Santosh Kumar said menace was growing because of the changing food habits of monkeys. “Advised by astrologers, people feed monkeys. This is an easy source of food for them. We have seen in the last few years that monkeys are even eating junk food.”
Kumar said that monkeys can be divided in three categories depending on food habits—commensal monkeys which are used to living in urban areas, semi-commensal which live in suburban areas and non-commensal which live in forest areas.
He said that monkeys were turning commensal because of easy availability of food in urban areas.
“We had studied the problem in Kerala. There the administration had caught monkeys and left them in deep jungles. When the team went back, they found that many monkeys were dead, as they were not getting easy food,” Kumar said.
The forest department has set up four teams. Said Deputy Conservator of Forests, Birendra Choudhary, “These teams reach the place from where they get a call on their hotline. However, the teams are only directed to remove the monkeys from the place.”
Said Santosh Kumar, “Catching monkeys is a difficult task due to their presence of mind and mobility. We caught 170 monkeys in the last two years and released them in Nepli and Kansal. But they came back.”
The UT Forest and Wildlife Department had approached the Himachal Pradesh(HP) Forest Department for carrying out sterilisation of monkeys. However, the department refused due to “their own workload”.
Dr Lovelesh Kant Gupta, Joint Director of Animal Husbandry, said, “In carrying out sterilisation of monkeys, we have to be very careful. It is done through a laparoscopic procedure. It is difficult to ensure that the stitches are healed properly as the monkeys tend to fiddle with them.”
When asked why the problem was increasing in Chandigarh, Dr Gupta said, “It is due to the trees here. The fruits are a source of their food, and so they come back for it. Also, people often feed them with fruits.”
The administration could, probably, learn from Jaipur, which had a serious monkey problem and where the local municipal corporation has, in the last five years, brought down the population of monkeys by 30 per cent.
Dhanna Ram, an official of Jaipur Municipal Corporation, said, “We have traps to catch monkeys. After they are caught, they are released in the Sariska Wildlife Sanctuary in Alwar.” In the last five years, as many as 13,000 monkeys have been relocated, he said.
On the other hand, nearby Shimla is still struggling with problem. Principal Conservator of Forests S C Srivastava, who described the problem as “acute” as the state had 2.5 lakh monkeys, said, “We have seven sterilisation centres and are in the process of setting up two more.”
Srivastava said that they tried relocating the monkeys but they found their way back. “Killing was banned after the High Court’s orders”, said Srivastava.
He said that the HP Forest Department had written to the Central government for tie-ups with biomedical research institutes so that monkeys could be caught and exported for research purposes. They have also sought permission of the Centre for setting up enclosures to catch and keep monkeys.
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